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Confronting editorial integrity issues head-on

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Before he began moderating a session entitled “Editorial Integrity: Under Assault?” at ABM’s Top Management Meeting Wednesday, Rance Crain, president of Crain Communications Inc. (publisher of Media Business), said that one of Crain’s own publications had recently crossed the line. The Nov. 7 issue of Advertising Age, of which Crain is editor in chief, distributed 1,000 copies with a special cover wrap at the ad:tech conference in New York. The cover wrap was a faux front page of the tabloid featuring an “interview” and “news” about the advertiser, SpecificMEDIA. The fake cover did carry an “Advertisement” disclaimer at the top of the page, Crain noted.

Crain quoted an e-mail from David Klein, publishing and editorial director of the Ad Age Group, that was sent to the entire Ad Age Group staff after the incident: “Even though it was a very limited polybag distribution only to conference attendees, it still violates our principles and damages our hard-won credibility,” Klein wrote. “I want to assure you that this is not something we will allow.”

Crain said neither Ad Age Editor Scott Donaton nor other key Crain Communications executives knew about the cover wrap, and went on to make a powerful case for the importance of editorial credibility as a business issue. “Credibility is the issue, and we and you should do whatever it takes to preserve it because that’s all we’ve got to sell,” Crain said.

Following his opening remarks about Ad Age, Crain and panelists Terry Evans, executive editor of Lebhar-Friedman’s Home Channel News; Pat Panchak, editor in chief of Penton Media’s IndustryWeek; and Whitney Sielaff, editorial director-publisher of VNU Business Media’s National Jeweler, went on to discuss a variety of issues about advertiser influence on editors and reporters.

At the conclusion of the session, Crain declared there was a “vast chasm” between what editors and many publishers think is proper, and he called on ABM President-CEO Gordon Hughes II to schedule additional sessions on the topic at future ABM meetings. Hughes, who was in the audience at the time, rose to say he would honor this request.

—Ellis Booker

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